Good morning. Gonzaga got a scare and a win last night, holding off Santa Clara 73-62 at the Leavey Center. It was an inside job with Robert Sacre and Sam Dower combining for 38 points and Elias Harris and Guy Landry Edi combining for 12 points and eight boards.
The links: My game story, San Jose Mercury News and A.P. Elsewhere, San Francisco, which entertains GU tomorrow, couldn't complete its comeback against BYU and Billy Grier's USD squad earned its sixth WCC win, defeating Portland in overtime. Saint Mary's isn't healthy for its matchup with Murray State.
Read on for my day-after post.
--Head coach Mark Few was animated throughout on the sidelines, showing his displeasure with how the Zags finished (turnovers, missed FTs, etc.) and their defensive effort on SCU’s perimeter shooters. The Broncos buried 10 of 21 3-pointers, led by Evan Roquemore’s four, Raymond Cowels’ three and Brandon Clark’s two.
“They are running guys off multiple staggers and those bigs are really hammering you on those screens,” he said. “And you’re going to get screened 6-7-8 times on a possession. Those ones I can live with. It’s the ones where we’re helping out of the corner when we have no business helping out of the corner on drives. We did that 2-3 times.”
The Broncos got very little done in the paint (10 points) and both of forward John McArthur’s field goals came on mid-range jump shots, but their 3-point shooting kept the game uncomfortable for Gonzaga from start to finish. The 3s and SCU’s ability to take care of the ball (7 turnovers) offset GU’s advantage in nearly every other statistical category.
“Doing the right thing,” said Few of the sloppy finish. “Making those bonehead errors, we know better. That always drives me nuts when we do those kinds of things.”
--Mike Hart didn’t play in the first half, but he was one of the most important players on the court during his 8 second-half minutes. He generated three points, six rebounds, a block and an assist. Defensively, he slowed SCU’s Roquemore.
“I think it was a mixture, it wasn’t just me,” Hart said. “I was on some other guys during that time, too. I just wanted to make everything tough for him. He was hitting some 3s in our face. I wanted to make those 3s bad shots, force him to make a tough play and not help off him.”
Hart had a key offensive board, dishing it out to Pangos for a 3-pointer.
“That whole possession I was essentially waiting for my opportunity to go in and crash the boards,” he said. “A lot of times the best option other than going up with it is looking outside because that’s the easiest time to find a wide-open shooter.”
Last year coach Mark Few noted that assistant Donny Daniels referred to Hart as the ‘best 5-minute player in America.’
“He absolutely played those staggers and ball screens perfectly and he took two charges,” Few said. “He did a great job, fabulous job (defensively). He even blocked a shot.”
--It was a physical contest and the Zags had the bruises to show it. Hart had a cut under his eye. He doesn’t remember when it occurred. Guy Landry Edi and Gary Bell Jr. were knocked to the floor hard as they tried to finish on the break. Both took a few seconds before rising to their feet. SCU’s Robert Garrett was whistled for a flagrant foul on the play involving Edi.
Robert Sacre is sporting a bump on his nose from practice Tuesday. Asked about it after Thursday’s game, a laughing Sacre said he didn’t know if it was broken. It obviously didn’t alter his play against SCU as he had 20 points.
--Saint Mary’s loss to LMU obviously lifted Gonzaga’s spirits, but players said they can’t adjust an approach that’s been working since the BYU game.
“It was good to see that, but it doesn’t automatically put us in first place,” Sacre said. “We have to keep fighting and keep playing like our backs are against the wall.”
It was Sam Dower that noted after the loss at BYU that GU had to go from playing like the hunted to playing as the hunter. Dower was already looking ahead to Saturday’s game at USF.
“It’s tough every time we go there,” he said. “We have to come prepared.”
STATS OF NOTE
--SCU had a 14-6 edge in points off turnovers. Gonzaga finished with 14 turnovers. Kevin Pangos had one turnover, his first since the second half of the BYU game.
--GU limited WCC foes to 29.7-percent shooting on 3s prior to SCU’s 10-of-21 performance. That bumped GU’s 3-point percentage defense to 31.2.
--Gonzaga only attempted two 3s in the second half and made both (one by Bell. and one by Pangos).
--Gonzaga made a season-high 61 percent from the field, its fourth straight game at 50 percent or better. The Zags were 14 of 18 on FGs in the second half.
--Since losing at BYU, Gonzaga has posted four double-digit wins (by 12 over Pepperdine, by 14 over Saint Mary’s, by 19 over Loyola Marymount and by 11 over Santa Clara).
--The announced attendance was 4,700 (a sellout at Leavey Center), but the crowd size was probably closer to 3,700. Gonzaga followers accounted for perhaps 700-800.
--Sacre had 10 points and Pangos five in the first half but the other three starters (Bell, Edi and Harris) combined for just two. Those three were more productive in the second half. In the closing 20 minutes, Edi had six points and two assists, Harris chipped in four points and two of his six boards, and Bell had all seven of his points and two of his four assists.
SACRE, on Dower: “Sam is coming in and he’s getting buckets, no matter what.”
FEW: “That section of the game where we built up the lead was about as efficient on offense as we’ve been all year.”
DOWER, on playing at SCU: “It’s hard to play them here. Basketball is a game of runs and teams can come back from 20 down (because of 3s). We just kept at it.”
DOWER, on success inside: “We knew they had physical, tough bigs, but we were just feeling good. We made our first shots and luckily our guards kept throwing us the ball.”
FEW, on the bigs: “Rob did a good job getting shots on his terms. We were getting him the ball and he slowed down and went to a moving going to the basket. Sam did a nice job in there and even Elias made some nice, patient moves.”